This First Day

September 4, 2012 @ 6:02 pm | Filed under: , , ,

A momentous occasion today: Rilla’s first official high-tide morning. Of course she’s been swept along in the family currents her whole life, but today was special. I went around the house pulling out all the good old books I read with her sisters at her age: Just So Stories (she’s heard a few already), The Blue Fairy Book, Fifty Famous Stories Retold, the James Herriot Treasury for Children. Such happy memories these tomes call up! We began with D’Aulaire’s Leif the Lucky: I knew she’d like the art. And the map. She asked for the globe, which came apart from its stand last year, and cuddled it on her lap while I read, stopping me so she could trace Eric the Red’s path from Norway to Iceland to Greenland with her finger. “Whoa, three MILES, Mommy.” It took me back to our Mr. Putty days. He may have to be resurrected.

Of course, I read stories to her every day of the week, and there’s no reason other than family tradition to call this morning’s read-aloud “high tide.” But it’s a dear tradition to us and she was beaming her gappy six-year-old grin at taking her place in the spotlight.

I used to waffle about methodologies: was I a Charlotte Mason homeschooler? An unschooler? Something in between—eclectic, perhaps? But it was all just groping for a label—and not even a label for my kids; it was about how to characterize myself in conversations with other homeschoolers, so that we might better understand one another. All the while, my kids and I went on simply doing what worked for us. If something stopped working, we did something else for a while—usually this has meant facilitating a child’s need to immerse deeply into a single passion or pursuit. I grok that; it’s how I love to learn, too. This blog is a chronicle of my own sudden immersions, some of them finite, some recurring at intervals: breadbaking, gardening, sewing, Irish pennywhistle, British period drama…it’s a long list. My kids have lists of their own, each one different, some interests overlapping.

Always, always, after one of these immersions, the diver comes up for air eventually. And there’s a restlessness, a pacing at loose ends, that has, for us, always been cured by a return to morning lesson time. Rose has told me she likes having the structure there to push against: knowing there are things she is expected to do fills her with ideas for things she longs to do. One of my jobs is to keep ears open for the longings, and drop resources and opportunities in her path to help her realize them. I love that part of the job.

I love this part, the high-tide part, too. Rilla, an extroverted child, delivered her first narration with glee. I explained that some mornings, one of her sisters will read her a story, and she’ll come tell me all about it.

“That’ll be my favorite part,” she said, matter-of-factly.

Some days, it will.

What the house looks like after a high-tide morning.

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5 Reponses | Comments Feed
  1. sarah says:

    I have always been encouraged when reading your descriptions of homeschooling. You seem to make diversity and remarkable flexibility come together so well. I too learn by immersion and so does my dd, and one of the best and hardest moves I’ve had to make in homeschooling is to stand back and let her dive deep, rather than lowering her on my own rope. I imagine having half a dozen children makes you more relaxed and confident! 🙂

  2. Fanny Harville says:

    I’ve said this a million times, but your “high-tide/low-tide” metaphor continues to be so helpful as we learn what works for us in homeschooling. As you say in this post, both the intense times of immersion and the restlessness of being at a loose end are crucial parts of the learning process. And isn’t it great that Rose has developed an understanding of how she likes to learn!

  3. Lesley Austin says:

    …and high-tide/low-tide pretty much describes Life, doesn’t it?

  4. MelanieB says:

    I started to write a comment but it turned into an essay so I decided it would be better as a blog post. I’m continually fascinated by the similarities and contrasts between Bella and Rilla.

  5. Julie says:

    It is so refreshing to read your blog & others such as Elizabeth Foss’ for inspiration. We have so many work-booky homeschoolers in our community, and though I love them dearly, I can not seem to relate to their obsession with the books, school on a schedule, and using a workbook for every subject. We do Math U See, and we have a few random phonics workbooks and workbooks for tracing letters & numbers, but I don’t do them religiously like I used to. For science, I prefer nature journals; for literature & grammar and vocabulary development, I prefer copywork, and for religion and history and everything else, we love to just read books. I find the Math U See and the phonics workbooks and reading practice to be grueling enough, and when I tire of it or feel that it is just too much, we set it aside for a time and try to practice math and reading skills in the context of life, such as through recipies and just plain getting cozy in a chair & reading!